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Shorter is sweeter

Lynne Sedgmore, principal of Guildford College, says it took her nearly five weeks to write its three-year development plan. A key figure in the process was the director of planning, although all senior managers played a role and other staff were encouraged to get involved through consultative meetings.

"Writing a short and succinct document enables the strategic vision of an organisation to be made clear," she says. "It's harder to write a short document than 100 pages."

Ms Sedgmore, who chairs a learning and skills council advisory group set up to study three-year planning, says the process encouraged Guildford to look more closely at how it meets the needs of the local economy. "Part of the problem is that ministers and officials have a perception of what they want - but there can be a mismatch with what providers feel they can deliver," she says. "This is about closing the perception gap."

Chris Thomson, principal of Brighton, Hove and Sussex sixth form college, says target-setting should assist learning providers. He praises Sussex LSC for "negotiating" with his college over the plan's contents. "A three-year development plan has a specific audience in the LSC," he says. "It is not a sufficient document to take the place of the strategic plan."

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